Failure of a God

The warm evening air sizzled with energy, prickling along her skin. The warning was amplified by the scent of the wet moss and death that coated her tongue and throat. Someone was here. An intruder to this realm. 

Samina walked through the buildings of the small downtown and stopped at the corner. Rising to her toes she glanced in both directions. No one. Nothing. But that couldn’t be. The creature’s energy was strong, but something within it must have blocked her ability to pin the direction. 

The shops had closed hours before so the street was silent. The scarcely placed lanterns provided the only sense of movement as the light flickered across the concrete to reveal potholes littering the street. As she watched, the shadows quivered, whispering to the night and telling secrets to the wind. It had been this way for centuries.   But who was there and why had they come? 

Samina knew that if she were to find this intruder, she’d have to use another method.  Crossing her arms, she turned in a slow circle and searched the darkness for that wicked malevolence she’d felt earlier. It was there, a remnant of its presence which had leaked from its very soul, like a snake shedding its skin. 

“What are you trying to tell me, Father?” Samina asked the heavens. No response came.

Samina sank to the ground to sit on the curb. Whatever this thing was, she knew it would pass this spot eventually. She rested her arms on her knees as she continued to reach out with her powers to read the energies flowing through the world. Usually, it wasn’t this hard. Beings from other realms couldn’t shield unless it was someone powerful. Scarily powerful.

“Well, at least this time they aren’t after Timmy.” Samina flopped to her back, arms out wide to the sides. “If they attacked him at home, my wards would trigger.”

Samina sighed as she gazed upward. The sky on this planet was filled with so many stars. They watched the occupants of this realm and so many like it with the cold indifference of the gods. For that was what they were.  But she knew they did not really see what occurred down here. It was below their attention and she preferred it that way. The star just left of Great North glittered spasmodically. Interesting.

“Father, what are you up to?”  She asked, her voice barely above a whisper.  Could he really hear her? No, but she as she’d given up that ability when she took this job, this was the closest she would get. Jumping worlds allowed only a very few to communicate between them. She was not of that level. So, her home realm was out of reach.

The echo of footfalls drew her attention to the right. They were quiet, but increasing in volume. The steady beat told Samina whoever it was, was jogging. Her head lulled to the side and waited. When the figure appeared, Samina bolted to a seated position. She cursed under her breath when she saw the figure he carried.

Well shit.

The man was large and covered in a thick, black leather armor from the neck down. Intricate stitching covered his chest and wrapped up one arm. At at least six and a half feet tall he was intimidating. Or would’ve been, had she been a lesser being. With black hair tied back at the base of his neck, very little of his features were visible because the helm he wore covered half of his face. None of that worried her. Neither did the annoyance which pulled back his lip. 

Huh. Looks like Timmy has been working his magic.

Samina tilted her head. She needed to see what was hidden. Because, there was something more here, a magic that altered reality and chose what the caster wanted seen. Samina reached within, pulling on her father’s line, and broke the glamour. Another curse left her lips. The cruel aura he exuded blanketed both him and the small figure over his shoulder. It was an aura she hadn’t seen in millennia.

Timmy struggled, his feet slamming into the man’s stomach. His fist beat against the soldier’s back as he hollered profanities.

“Sam!” Timmy screamed the moment he spotted her from his upside-down position. His face was red from the blood that had rushed to his head. “Help me!”

Samina stood slowly, brushing off her jeans as she straightened.  

“Why were you not within the wards?” Samina asked, calmly. 

To an outsider, she would sound uncaring, but Timmy knew that was not the case. It was her duty to protect him, her privilege, and unfortunately-or fortunately, if you thought about it- this had become a regular occurrence for them. Samina placed her hands on her hips and shook her head. She was so proud as her adopted kid brother fought tooth and nail to escape his abductor.

The man, for she was pretty sure he was a man based on his size alone, did not slow at their exchange. This was not surprising. She had yet to allow him to see her. In truth, only those like Timmy could see Samina when she did not want them to. Which told her something about this thing. He was powerful, but not almighty. A soldier if she were to guess. High ranking yes, but a soldier nonetheless.

“Samina,” he whined. “It’s not funny. Help me!” Her lips turned down.

No, it wasn’t funny. This poor kid had no say in his life and never would. The mark over his head made sure of that. The fact that she’d found him as an infant, so small and frail, had been the only reason he still breathed. Of all the worlds this universe held, never had Samina expected this one to birth a Hyldemoer; a tree spirit. Especially a male one. That was unheard of. Never had there been a male Hyldemoer, but the world had changed so much this time around.  What he was, was not just rare, but impossible.

“Hey Tim, remind me to hunt down and kill the person who leaked your secret,” she called, beginning to follow. 

“You tell me that every time, and yet, you haven’t done crap.” His exasperated tone nearly made her smile. 

“Yeah, but you’re not helping either. That spark within you becomes brighter every day. I shudder at what is to come. Puberty will kill us both.”

He snorted then pushed off the giant’s back allowing him to rest his elbows there. His chin propped in his hand, he rolled his eyes then began to drum his fingers impatiently.

“Alright, I’m coming,” she said, attempting to hide her amusement. “But Tim, when I get him to drop you, you need to run hard and fast, back to the wards. This one is different. Can you feel it?”

He nodded.

“Good. Then let’s get this over with.”

Samina unsheathed the short sword she carried along her spine. She tilted it this way and that, examining the perfectly balanced blade. Along the metal, beautiful sweeping marks were etched in patterns that appeared random. They were not. These symbols were that of her line and linked her to this legendary sword that had existed since the beginning. In her hands, they were both gifted with abilities -amplified by the power of the first being. 

Samina ran. She spun the sword in a circle as she called on each marking one by one. Power flared, lighting the markings from within. At the same instant, the matching power flowed through her, clean and bright.  It was a welcoming caress, a thank you of connection. Now the sword was as alive as she.

The soldier turned down the next street and toward town square. Late-night shops and restaurants had been busy as she’d passed through earlier. She hoped that most had cleared out since. Samina began to sprint.

“Myst,” she whispered to the universe. “Settle and meddle, keep the humans unknowing.” 

A translucent fog spread from her, expanding out and out until it met the minds of the mortals. It would not hurt them, but it would keep them from sights that should be left unseen. 

Samina spun on her feet and sprinted down the street closest to her. It ran parallel to the one the creature had taken. With long strides and a little boost from her powers, she reached town square in seconds. It was a thrill she rarely allowed. She was technically human in this body, but even so, her original bloodline could not be denied. Limiting its use, however, was always a good idea for there was no point to send out a beacon of her presence. Sam raced across the courtyard diagonally to cut them off and that burst of speed had allowed her to reach the spot before they did. 

Timmy and his kidnapper appeared. Timmy, still over his shoulder, was once again screaming and fighting the hold. Good boy.

Samina dropped her veil and the man pulled up short. As she appeared in his path, he slowed to a stop. She had to give him credit. He had more grace than someone of his size should allow. Perhaps it was the way his wide shoulders were balanced by the thick ropes of muscle he called legs. The creature snarled, but Samina only chuckled. 

Finally close enough, she examined the leatherwork of his helm and chest plate. The fitted hard leather wrapped tightly around his body.  Across the chest and one shoulder the depiction of a dragon, teeth bared, was stitched in silver and red. Its claws were extended to encircle two unique symbols which were burned into the leather strap holding the chest piece to the arm guard. A high-ranking fighter then. Interestingly, the main symbol over his heart held between the dragon’s teeth told her more about him than anything. 

He was from an original line.  One she was familiar with.

His helm was also made of two-tone leather. The pieces overlapped, twisting together. They started at his jaw then arced up to shield the top half of his face. What was the most astonishing was how the leather near the top was then molded up to extend back several inches as if they were the wings of the great beast resting below. 

It was beautiful armor and extremely concerning.

Samina sighed internally. This was going to be a pain in the ass. She’d have to get Timmy away as soon as possible because never could one of his ilk get a hold of one like him.

“Well, well, well. I have not seen one of your house in centuries.” Samina said, confidently. “You must be of Balak’s blood to wear his colors.”

His eyes narrowed and Timmy went still.

“I have to say I never thought I’d see that fancy cap of yours again. I figured it was buried along with your father.”

A menacing growl reverberated from his huge chest. Anger or a warning? Probably the latter considering the long knife he withdrew from his belt. In someone else’s hand, it might be considered a sword, but in his large paw, it was definitely more knife. 

“Get out of my way Sambucus. This does not concern you,” he said. The man’s thick accent was deep and threatening. As he spoke, he shifted slightly causing the moonlight to reflect off his blade. 

So he knew what she was. Interesting. It had been a long time since someone called her by that name. Especially considering she was something far more than an Elderberry. 

“Let go of my kin, Titan. You should not be in this realm.”

“You are not kin.” He chucked, then continued, “We’d heard the boy had a protector, but no one guessed it was one of the sacred ones. The council will be very interested to learn this.”

“You will not get the chance to share that information with your filthy Devorr,” Samina growled. “You are all half-breeds and do not deserve the name of Titan. Your father was the last of the true line and he has long since been dead by my hand.”

With a wicked grin, he said, “You are the one who took his life? I thought your kind abhorred killing.”

She shrugged. “It’s been a long existence. Much has changed this cycle.”

His eyebrow lifted and before she could do anything, he flung Timmy toward the front window of the shop nearest them. His body crashed through the glass. He rolled, slamming into one of the display cases.

Samina winced knowing how painful that would be for him. Samina wanted to run to her ward, but if she did, both their lives would be forfeit. A groan leaked from Timmy’s throat and then he went silent. Thank the gods he was alive. That would have to do for now. She’d deal with healing him after this. Samina readied herself. He may be impure, but the Titan clan were not to be underestimated. 

The Devorr attacked, surging forward and brandishing his weapon with obvious expertise. He swung low sweeping upward in an angled arc aiming for her abdomen. 

Samina jumped spinning in the air, the enemy blade passing inches below her. Before her feet touched the ground, Samina’s own weapon was on track. Metal clanged as her sword made contact with his and sparks flew into the air. He swung again, but she knocked it away with a fluid move that immediately led into an attack of her own. She spun gracefully, swinging her blade to connect with the armor at his side. A small grunt was her only reward. The armor wasn’t even scratched.

Angry now, he advanced, his vicious war cry confirming she hadn’t done any real damage. 

A slash at the soft spot near the armpit. No luck. A parry and then she came down on his shoulder, side, then thigh in one well-practiced move. He countered each one, coming back with a combination of his own. Her arms shook at the vibration of his last hit. She stepped into him. She kneed him, then her elbow swung up making contact with his lip.

He grinned. The soldier wiped away the blood then advanced again.

The sound of battle resonated through the square. Humans glanced around, looking for the source and telling her the spell she’d cast was fading. The few that glanced their way and whose eyes went wide were the rare supernaturals who called this town home. They knew her or thought they did. They at least understood the importance of hiding the truth from the humans. So when they began to add their energy to the spell or create their own, pride shot through her. Even if this meant her time here was over, she couldn’t feel anything but grateful for their help. The gods never approved of humans knowing the truth.

The hits came hard and fast as the Devorr took his turn on the offensive. It had been a long time since Samina had come across a well-trained opponent and he wasn’t bad. That said, she had to stop this. Samina called on her power. Her sword glowed and her speed increased. Hit after hit the soldier countered, but there was no way he could win. He would wear out, she was only getting started. She kicked him straight in the chest and he flew into and through a neighboring building. The wall collapsed and dust shot into the air with a plume no one would miss.

Samina approached the downed building, sword at the ready.

He pushed himself from the debris and when he emerged, the light in his eye had changed. There was doubt there now. Instead of the blind confidence that he could destroy her, there was a new understanding. His only hope was to get away and tell the others of the Titan clan what he’d discovered. There was a Sambucus out in the realms looking for and protecting Hyldemoers.  That knowledge could change everything.

Samina saw the realization and cursed. She had to stop him. Samina attacked, her hits quick and hard. With her advance, he was pushed backward, back up the street where their fight began. There she boxed him in. It was time to send him away. 

The Devorr flinched as she began to chant in rhythm with her blows. It was a language he had not heard in a lifetime at least, for the words had power. Alone, they felt like spears being stabbed into his skull. He had to escape. There was no way out for she was moving too fast. Knowing he was done by the way her words burned his skin, he made a dangerous choice. He slammed into the shop at his back then burst his way through the wall adjoining the next store. The store where Timmy lay.

Samina screamed her fury. Still, she managed to get between him and Timmy, but only barely.

“If we cannot have him, then neither shall you!” the soldier growled just as he flung a knife at Timmy’s prone body.

Samina lunged her sword at the Devorr’s chest. It sank home and Samina’s chants picked up pulling energy from the sword. His image flickered, here one instant and gone the next.

“What is this magic?” he asked, lifting his hand to watch. “I will not yield.”

Being the fighter he was, the Devorr pulled another knife from his belt. He attacked. But with so much power activated, Samina had no trouble avoiding the blow. She stepped from his path. She kicked out slamming her boot into his side with a crunch of bone. 

The soldier fell to his knees.

“It is magic even older than you. It may be splintered, but it is still strong. Of the primal source and a power your kind cannot withstand,” Samina explained. Stalking forward, she caught his gaze. The words to one final spell slipped from her lips and he screamed in agony.

“We will get you for this!” Were his last words before he vanished. She watched as his body disintegrated into mist, swirling then collecting in front of her. 

“You, soldier, will no longer be able to reach us. Nor shall you interfere again.”

His essence congealed then rose upward on a path to its new resting place, one he could never come back from. The sky brightened with a great flash the moment his soul reached the star he was now confined to. 

Silently, Samina recited a prayer to the great spirit which shared its heart and power with her. She thanked the universe for protecting the soul who’d just attacked Timmy as it traveled the lifetime to its new home. The moment the last prayer was released, she snapped back to reality.

Timmy. Panic speared through her. She spun toward where she’d last seen his body and gasped. He lay motionless, so tiny against the debris that littered the floor. 

Samina slid her sword into its sheath then bent to kneel over the boy she loved like family. A sob racked her at the sight of the knife sticking from his back. Samina had miscalculated. In that last moment, the Devorr had thrown true. His knife, which she hadn’t been able to stop, had hit its mark.

Samina lifted him to roll him to his back. His eyes were open and linked to hers instantly.

“Timmy, dear one, hold on. We must get you ready to move before the shine wears off.”

Blood covered his face from where it had dripped from a cut along his hairline. Dirt crusted into it, making him look disturbed, and a bruise covered the left side of his face. Tears shimmered in his eyes. He tried to speak, but nothing came out.

“You’ll be okay. You will,” she said, running a hand over his hair.

He shook his head and, with a smile, mouthed three words. “I love you.”

“No,” Samina whined, placing her cheek against his. “No, no, no.”

Damn it, why couldn’t she heal? How, of all the gods, was this not one of the gifts bestowed to her? Instead, it was her Sister Elder who received that gift. And for what reason? Sister Elder did not leave the home realm. Why had the great spirit chosen her and not Samina? 

“No, please, dear one. I thought you were the one. Please come back to me.” 

Timmy’s eyes closed, there was a slow exhale, and his body went limp. The light in his eyes disappeared and Samina felt as his spirit left his body. It was no use. She could feel it beginning to absorb back into the universe. It spun in the breeze, traveling up and up until it disappeared into the cosmos.

Wetness streaked down her cheeks. Tears she had not let fall for hundreds of years. She pulled his small body into her arms to cradle him. Samina didn’t know if she could take this again. Timmy had been so pure, so kind, and she had failed him. How could she take another lifetime waiting for the next graced one, let alone be able to maintain distance. What if the next one didn’t have the power to unite the spirits and save the universe? Could she walk away then? Now?

No. For this was the last time. Should she fail, the universe would never again reset and all realms would collapse. Life would cease to exist and the great world tree, her protector and partner in this world,  would die.

Samina sat back on her heels. As the last traces of the myst dissolved, she looked up to find the grim faces of the town and she knew. It was for them she fought. For eons she’d fought for life; for those of the past, those of the now, and those to come. It was the way of a Sambucus, the Elder who protected this world. 

Sighing, she placed Timmy’s body on the dirty ground and pushed to her feet. With one last glance at his sweet face, she pressed the marking on her forearm. It lit from within and she dissolved into air, the others watching. It was time to leave this world and again be lost to the search for those who could save this life.

Sambucus – ElderSambucus Canadensis Tree – Ancient mythology states the Elder tree is sacred and is linked to the Elder Mother, or ‘Hylde Moer.’ In the greater story presented here, they protect the Yew Tree, the Tree of Life/World Tree, or Mother Tree.

Devvor – Half-breed Titan. Refers to either: 1. Council (a group) of titan representatives. or 2. Used as a derogatory term for an individual.

Published on OBW Blog April 23, 2021 © Tracey Canole 

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